The choice for expat parents: Online home school vs. bricks and mortar school
By Melina Marks
For English-speakers thinking about moving overseas with kids, school is an extremely important factor to consider. If the new destination is a place like England or Ireland, school really shouldn’t be an issue because of language. But what about a place like Ecuador? There is a wide variety of schools here to choose from, but only a few offer bilingual classes and special attention for non-Spanish-speaking foreign students.
If your kids don’t know Spanish or are intimidated at the idea of having to learn it quickly, online schooling may be the path for you.
To be 100% honest, before moving to Cuenca I was utterly terrified of going to a traditional “bricks and mortar” school. The idea of learning chemistry in Spanish, in a classroom, made me want to cry. I demanded that I be enrolled in an online school so I could study at home, at my own pace.
I began as a sophomore in the online schooling world and plan to continue it through my senior year, which begins in September.
Before I moved here, I had taken three years of Spanish at my school in the U.S. and, after two years living in Cuenca, my Spanish is much better. So, why do I prefer online school over a traditional, local school?
Because I have a full-time job, my situation is a bit different that it might be for other kids. I enjoy working in my parent’s café, so doing school work on my own schedule works best for me. Yes, I miss going to a real high school and having an established group of friends, but this is an experience I can look forward to when I start college in less than two years.
Many of my Cuenca friends are in college now, but I got to know them when they were still in high school. From what I understand, Colegio Aleman and Santa Ana are both great school for English-speaking kids, if this is the route you choose. Most of my friends attended those two school and encouraged me to attend to. But, as I said, my circumstances and preferences were different.
I babysit a wonderful little seven-year-old girl who goes to a local school, and has picked up Spanish extremely quickly. She’s very smart and her mind is young which, in my opinion, makes it easier to learn and understand a new language. For those of you out there considering moving to Cuenca with young children, there are a number of schools here that will help them work through adjustment and language issues. Younger children tend to adjust and learn faster, making a bilingual school not so scary. If your kids are older and anything like I was, the whole idea could seem like a terrible one. Going to a Spanish-speaking school probably won’t be the easiest thing to convince them to do, even though the language learning process will go much faster in a real school.
I still have a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t take back my choice of an online education. Because of that decision, I have learned how to manage my time better. I am 17 and I hold a full-time job and get my school work done on my time. I still have a social life and try to have as much fun as I can. My childish fears of rejection by peers and inability to learn in a different language kept me from going to a physical school, yet I enjoy my circumstances. A “brick and mortar” school isn’t for everyone, especially living abroad. Online school is a great alternative for any teenager with determination … and a bit of fear.
Melina Marks is a 17-year-old high school student working at her mother’s and stepfather’s café and pasteleria, Popacuchu, located at Edificio Cuatro Rios, Primero de Mayo y Ave. de las Americas in Cuenca, Ecuador.